Welcome to my newest edition of Bales' Best NBA Bets. In this article, I will outline my favorite bet for August 17, 2020. You can also find all of Bet Karma's staff bets through our NBA Premium Package.
When looking at the overall prices of the series, it’s clear this one is mispriced. The Denver Nuggets are -278 favorites over the Utah Jazz and the Miami Heat are -335 favorites over the Indiana Pacers. While I like Denver and Miami to win those series’, I like the Houston Rockets even more. They are only -148 favorites over the Oklahoma City Thunder. This may be an overreaction to the injury to Russell Westbrook.
Westbrook is undoubtedly one of the best guards in the NBA, but Houston has proven they can win without him. He’s also considered day-to-day at this point and may end up only missing the first game of the series.
These are two different style teams, as Houston leads the NBA in pace in the bubble while Oklahoma City ranks 17th. Surprisingly, Houston only ranks 19th in offensive rating with Oklahoma City ranking 21st. The Thunder ended their season in the bubble second in defensive rating while Houston ranked seventh. With that being said, if you remove their game against the Philadelphia 76ers where they benched their starters halfway through, Houston ranked second in defensive rating, slotting one spot ahead of Oklahoma City.
Neither team has been a dominant offense in the bubble. The Rockets (52.8%) only rank 16th in effective field goal percentage (eFG%) while the Thunder (49.8%) rank 20th. Oklahoma City (50.3%) does rank third in the bubble in opponents eFG%, though. Houston ranks ninth (53.4%) but they jump to seventh (51.6%) if you remove their last game.
The Rockets have two key factors working heavily in their favor in this series, though. They boast a +1.8% free throw rate compared to the Thunders -0.4% free throw rate. In the bubble, Houston shot 82.1% while attempting 26.5 free throws per game. Oklahoma City only attempted 24.8 free throws per game, shooting only 78.3%.
Another key factor will be turnovers. Houston ranked sixth in the bubble in turnover percentage (13.6%) while Oklahoma City ranked 17th (15.1%). Both were outstanding at forcing turnovers, though, ranking second (17.4%) and sixth (15.8%), respectively. Still, Houston edged them out in that category, as well.
The one major concern is offensive rebounds, as Houston ranked last in offensive rebound percentage and second last in opponent’s offensive rebound percentage. While this is a major concern, Oklahoma City ranked as an average team in both categories. It won’t be a big enough edge to shift this series.
Houston’s small-ball lineup is going to negate Steven Adams’ defense, which is one of the strongest aspects of Oklahoma City’s team. Their best lineup also consists of three guards, but Houston has the personnel to match that with ease. These teams are relatively similar but that is more or less without Westbrook. I believe Houston can win this series if he rests the entire time but he’s a known competitor and I expect him to return sooner than later, giving Houston a massive edge. The Vegas line is far too close for the advantages Houston owns over Oklahoma City.
Bet 1.48 units on the Houston Rockets to win the series (-148) to win 1 unit
2020 NBA Season Record - 6-11 (-3.21 units)